how to help from a distanceIt’s admirable to want to help the people you care about. It’s a natural instinct when you’re close to someone to want to see them succeed.

But it’s important to know when to hold back. When to let people get on with things alone. When to realise that they don’t want – or need – help right now. No matter how noble and generous your intentions may be, it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes you don’t have to step in.

That doesn’t mean you have to stop showing your friends care and support. But try to do it in a less hands-on way.


Sometimes, people need to vent the problems without needing advice back. They want to get everything that’s bothering them off their chest so they don’t feel so weighed down by it all. That’s it. They don’t want to feel like you would’ve handled their situation so much better than they managed to. They just want someone to listen and to understand, not to march in and take over. You don’t have to tell them how to fix everything. You just have to be sympathetic.


Sometimes the best way for someone to learn a valuable lesson is to live out the consequences of their own bad decision. You can tell them over and over again what they should do, but you have to let them take their own action if they want to really appreciate the real meaning of what you have to say. Their own experience will be a much more vivid reminder than any amount of your words.


When someone has a journey to make on their own, the most important thing you can do for them is to support them unconditionally, even if you disapprove of the way they handle things. Let them ignore your advice and mess up because of it – and don’t hold it against them. They need someone to be there to encourage them to pick themselves up and try again, not someone who makes them feel stupid for not getting it first time around.


Eventually, they’ll either figure out for themselves the best way to get through their problems, or they’ll realise that they can’t do this alone. If they need help, they will come to you. Let them know that you’re there if they ever need anything, and then let them reach out to you in their own time.


It might seem counter-productive to refuse help and good advice. But people don’t do it without reason. They might not realise it, but all they want is to feel in control of their own lives. They want to test their own capabilities, to learn how much they can handle on their own. They know that help is there if they need it, but they don’t want to be dependent on it while they have the choice to try things on their own terms. Understand that they only want a chance to prove themselves and they’ll appreciate your support on a much stronger level.

Kirstie Summers,

Daily Zen.

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